Citizen Science, from a Librarian’s Perspective

Citizen science joins the general public with the scientific community in creating a collaborative relationship to increase scientific knowledge.  All kinds of people can take part in citizen science projects by collecting and sharing data.  The possibilities are endless, and the contributions are immense!  So, for me, it was only natural that I should become an “official” citizen scientist and get involved with #CitSciMonth.

When I joined The Network of the National Library of Medicine- MidContinental Region (MCR) in December 2019, I became part of the citizen science and crowdsourcing working group.  It was then that I learned about SciStarter and Citizen Science Month.

At first, I was unsure about what citizen science was how I could make a difference in advancing research.  When the opportunity to take part in planning activities for the month came up, I signed up for the weekly call to learn more.

That call was a game changer for me!  Caroline from SciStarter and the people on the call were so enthusiastic and passionate about citizen science.  They shared ideas, resources and thoughts about ways to get people involved during #CitSciMonth. It was then I realized I was in the perfect position to get the word out about citizen science to libraries of all types, connecting them to projects of all kinds but especially those that impacted community and societal needs.  It was clear that by working together, people from all walks of life really can make a difference in advancing science, and that libraries could be natural hubs for this work.

I have always been a lover of nature and the outdoors.   I am also curious about how changes in the environment affect our health and wellbeing.  I take part in Flu and COVID Near You, the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (February 12-15, 2021), Audubon Christmas Bird Count and most recently Eyewire.

One of the best things I took part in was the Social Media Takeover for SciStarter for the April 2020 campaign.  In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what to do or say but with the help of NLM and SciStarter my MCR colleague and I were off and running.  We posted information about the NLM projects on the SciStarter website to #CitSciMonth.  We also included things about what we were doing in the way of celebrating Citizen Science and highlighted other engaging projects found on the SciStarter site.  I would encourage anyone interested in spreading the word about CitSci to sign up for a week.  It was fun!

On a personal note, I wish I would have gotten involved sooner!  There are many projects that can be done just about anywhere and involve just about anything.  What is great about citizen science is it allows people to expand on a casual interest by allowing them to share data that has been collected with a larger community of interested people.  The power of the crowd can advance research faster and sooner than conventional research methods. That is cool.

If you are hesitant to get involved, don’t be.  The Citizen Science Month program has loads of projects with a range of involvement and time commitment.  There are many resources and toolkits available to lead you through a project and if you need help, the SciStarter team and your NNLM regional office is available to help!  Planning for Citizen Science Month 2021 is underway so check out what is happening and how to get involved at Citizen Science Month 2021: https://CitizenScienceMonth.org

Categories: Citizen Science Month, Library, NNLM

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About the Author

Margie Sheppard

Margie Sheppard is part of the Network of the National Library of Medicine - Mid Continental Region as the Kansas/Technology Coordinator Margie comes from the Central Kansas Library System (CKLS) in Great Bend, Kansas where she was the Library Technology Consultant. While at the system she managed the consortium ILS, and trained staff and librarians in cataloging, website design, and using library marketing tools. She also oversaw the use and purchasing of eResource platforms and served as the administrator of the system LibGuide platform. She has an undergraduate degree in nursing and received her MLIS from Emporia State University. Prior to joining CKLS in 2013, Margie managed her husband’s rural anesthesia practice and worked in various clinical settings. She has a passion for libraries and serves as the Chair of the KU Libraries Board of Advocates, the chief volunteer group of KU Libraries. She is an active member of ALA, KLA and ARSL. Margie has an interest in Intellectual Freedom and the rights of library users. She is especially interested in patron privacy and protection of patron data.